Child Development

The Hazards Of the Accelerated Reader System

I am so fed up with the way our school systems use, or, rather, misuse, the Accelerated Reader (AR) testing system.
I work with struggling readers on a daily basis, kids who hate to read because it is difficult for them to do so. I view my job as a teacher to help ease the pain of reading while encouraging the child through his or her difficulties. Somedays it’s a very fine line between success and frustration for the child, and myself if I’m being totally honest.
Somedays it’s a very fine line between success and frustration for a child Click To Tweet
Giving a child the tools that can be used to break apart our language can be daunting. If you think about all of the sounds and all of the rules that go along with figuring out words, then throw in words that follow absolutely no rules, think how overwhelmed a six, seven and eight year old child can become. Now toss a challenge like dyslexia or auditory processing disorder to the mix and it complicates matters even more.
The AR Program
Insert the AR program here. Renaissance Learning created this program to motivate reading, not stifle it. Yet I know many of the districts in my state misuse this system to take reading grades. Also students must obtain a certain amount of points each quarter in order to participate in a special activity or get a certain grade, thus creating dislike for reading, especially if the child struggles already.
When I talk to kids about reading, very few will tell me that they will sit down with a book, of their own accord, and read for pleasure. Even the ‘good’ readers get a bad taste in their mouths when AR goals are mentioned. And the struggling readers? Even if, and that’s a huge if, modifications are being made, most readers who are already challenged will tell me that they hate reading.
This makes me so very sad, being I came from a time where reading was absolutely magical, and still believe, even as an adult, that reading for pleasure can transport me away from reality.
So what do we do when we don’t agree with the system? Well, I usually buck it, but I don’t know of a lot of teachers who have the time or especially the leftover energy to raise the roof about something of this nature.
What do we do when we don’t agree with the system? Click To Tweet
How to Use AR Effectively
So if you must follow the AR system, here are three things you can do to make a ‘peaceful protest’, especially since protests seem to be a popular thing as of late:
Establish with your team your stance with the AR system and try to negotiate lowered goals for your grade level. If you get to establish your own goals, lower the bar a bit to focus on quality instead of quantity.
Ensure modifications for your struggling readers. These kiddos have to read for a really long time, like the rest of their lives, and our job is to instill a love of reading, not an aversion to it. Modifications can be as simple as having the student read the test questions aloud to you or if there is an IEP making sure those modifications are enforced.
Give adequate time for students to prepare for their AR tests. Instead of having the reading take place at home, allow class time for the student to read and be able to take the test as soon as the book is completed.
We need to make sure we are being the cheerleaders in our classrooms, enabling more successes than failures.
How does your school use the AR system?

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